Last updated: September 25, 2023
There’s a dark side to tourism that is rarely talked about but is thriving nonetheless. Drug destinations are actual trips. No pun intended. People really plan vacations around drug use—especially since pot is legal for recreational use in many states now. Those who enjoy smoking the drug may plan vacations in states where they can partake without fear of prosecution.
Drug tourism, also known as Narco-tourism, includes interstate travel here in the United States but also includes traveling to other countries in order to consume drugs that are illegal where the “tourist” lives.
Traveling abroad abounds
Foreign countries that support the drug tourism trade include:
- Mexico—Even the harshest drugs are decriminalized in Mexico. Vacationers are allowed to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin, LSD, and more. The trip up is that if caught over the legal limit, it’s likely that heavy jail time will be the end result. Drug tourists also need to be wary of corrupt law enforcement officials who exploit tourists for bribes.
- Laos—The drug culture in Southeast Asia is especially strong in the golden triangle which encompasses Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Taking a trip down the lazy river is an experience that many drug tourists heading for the area look forward to. Tourists can find restaurants with “happy” menus that include various foods infused with drugs, such as psychedelic mushrooms and marijuana.
- Peru—Drug connoisseurs know that Ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew made from a blend of vines, plants, and shrubs, which is used for ceremonial and healing purposes by indigenous cultures in the Amazonian region. It’s a trip within a trip if you catch our drift. Users beware though, besides hallucinations, other side effects include vomiting and diarrhea. Oh, and it’s poisonous, there’s that.
- The Netherlands—Long recognized for its liberal attituded toward marijuana possession, Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands is a common drug tourism destination. People from all over the world flock to coffee shops where customers can order pot or hash directly off the menu.
American addicts flooding city streets
Drug destinations are taking on another connotation, as well. Some large metropolitan cities have become overrun with addicts. The situation has grown so dire in San Francisco, for instance, that shop owners are abandoning their downtown stores leaving a ghost town behind. Those who are brave enough to hold their ground are locking up everything in hopes of being able to survive.
Philadelphia is making headlines as zombie-like tranq—also known as xylazine—addicts roam filthy, needle-littered streets. The city even shut down an entire train station due to it being overtaken by homeless addicts.
Florida recently made headlines with a couple of drug destinations targeting those who use methamphetamine. Law enforcement moved in to clear a makeshift village of squatters on an uninhabited island dubbed “Meth Island” just off the coast. The village contained a number of wooden structures, camping chairs, trampolines, and what appeared to be a makeshift mini-skate park. Booby traps to deter visitors were discovered during the search, as well.
The piece de resistance, however, may have been the four-story tree house found there. The area is well known for drug use and a deputy was overheard on video during the siege saying an island north of the Dunlawton Bridge had “significantly better made” housing. Residents were given 48 hours to vacate the premises.
It’s a one-way trip to nowhere
Regardless of where it is, the heart of the matter is that addicts are overtaking areas of our cities and towns across the nation. Homeless camps spring up overnight and increase in size daily it seems. Moreover, many of those homeless people suffer from addiction. Sadly, as time goes on, it’s creating a growing sense of hopelessness.
School children witness extreme human suffering daily as they trudge through the streets on their way to class. They are subjected to witnessing things that you would never want a child to see. People who are caught in the throes of withdrawal begging for money to purchase drugs. Addicts who have scored, shoot up on the spot with no concern about who sees. And, of course, there are intermittent breakouts of violence that may or may not involve gunfire.
Walking through the accumulating filth and used syringes tossed by the wayside is nothing short of traumatic—not to mention desensitizing. Even if accompanied by adults on the daily trek to school, and we most certainly hope they are, the mark left on them is sure to run deep.
All the while, the people living homeless on the streets struggle to survive. Drug destinations take on a less-than-desirable meaning when you feel imprisoned there. It’s next to impossible to muster the inner strength needed to kick a drug addiction in that type of environment. Instead, figuring out a way to score their next fix becomes the main purpose of life. The vicious cycle continues and society, as a whole, continues to break down a bit more each day.
Can we ever win the war?
The scourge of drug addiction that plagues the United States is growing worse. If you live in a city that appears to be nothing short of a sanctuary for the homeless, you undoubtedly see evidence of that fact every day. Rather than sweeping the problem aside instead of dealing with it head-on, many Americans feel it’s time to take a new approach.
The country of Portugal incorporated a new method of dealing with drug addiction more than two decades ago now with promising results.
Here’s a bit of the backstory.
In 20o1, Portugal was proclaimed the ultimate drug destination when named the drug capital of Europe. At the time, an estimated 1% of their population—100,000 citizens—used heroin. The government took a revolutionary position and decriminalized all drugs—admittedly in an act of desperation. According to Dr. João Castel-Branco Goulão, who was recruited by the government to discover a solution to the rampant drug use, “Every family had someone with problems and people tended to think, my son’s not a criminal, my son is a sick person in need of help.”
Subsequently, then, a new plan was put into action. Instead of charging an individual for drug use causing them to have a criminal record, police refer users to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. Once there, users meet with psychologists and social workers to receive help.
People have responded to the positive approach and the plan is working. The number of people using heroin dropped substantially over the next few years. By 2015, the number was only 33,000. Today, Portugal has one of the lowest drug-related death rates in Western Europe. Furthermore, drug use among young people is below the European average overall. How encouraging is that tidbit of information?
Portugal might point the way
Like the citizens of Portugal, it seems everyone in America is surely affected by a family member who has become addicted to drugs. Now xylazine and fentanyl are pouring into the country and finding their way into virtually every black-market drug sold. Overdose deaths are soaring to numbers no one ever dreamed possible. Many people wouldn’t agree that decriminalizing all drugs could ever benefit our society, but twenty years’ worth of documented evidence is something to be heavily considered. Where could we be twenty years from now with drug destinations focused on giving addicts a hand up?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 110,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2022. Something has got to give. Perhaps, decriminalizing drugs is the key that will unlock the floodgates of healing our country so desperately needs. Reaching out to scoop up addicts and providing help and hope instead of making them feel less than others and locking them away makes sense. Is it time to shake things up and give it a try?